Right now it feels as if the web’s entering a golden age for music lovers, not just because of the advent of new distribution models, but also because services such as YouTube (s GOOG) and SoundCloud offer an easy way to embed tracks and even playlists on pretty much any kind of page.
The problem is that most things are in silos and there’s precious little in the way of cross-platform continuity for the listener. Which is why Musicplayr, a Berlin/Cologne-based service that offers just that for most free online music, sounds pretty good right now.
Musicplayr users can pull in content from all sorts of free music platforms, both audio and video, to create a unified playlist. The site’s player is itself embeddable, and on Thursday it got a whole lot prettier: audio-only tracks now get accompanying pictures, and the player window can also now be continuously visible. The startup calls it “eye candy for the ears”.
If you want to run off and check it out before reading further, fire off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – the first 200 to do so will get an invite. Yes, it’s not entirely open at the moment, but those who are already in can invite others.
“Technically we only store the deep links – we are not altering or caching this content,” co-founder Thorsten Lüttger told me. “We want to make all three parties happy – one party is the consumers, the others are the labels and the producers-slash-artists. All of them have to be happy. The content owner stays in control.”
Avoiding the GEMA trap
The legality of Musicplayr’s approach has been a careful consideration for Lüttger and co-founder Stefan Vosskötter. However, one party Musicplayr hasn’t even bothered approaching is Germany’s much-loathed music rights collection society, GEMA, a.k.a. the organisation that broke YouTube for Germans. As far as Lüttger is concerned, it doesn’t matter too much what GEMA makes of the startup’s business model when the company is thinking about being a global product.
“We can build this model without Germany as well,” he said. “Technically we are a bookmark service – what we are doing is open. The songs GEMA has taken down from YouTube we [automatically] do not play in Germany, but the moment you cross the border into the Netherlands, we play it for you. It’s something where the German consumer has to suffer and it’s not our mission to solve this problem. It has to be solved between GEMA and those providers; we’re just the middleman.”
Brave words. So if Germany’s not necessarily Musicplayr’s main focus, where is? Western Europe and the U.S., apparently. Lüttger believes services such Spotify, which also offers an embeddable player, have given people a taste of the idea already.
However, he pointed out that Spotify’s player is “basically a download link to their app”, whereas people listening to someone’s embedded Musicplayr don’t need to download anything.
“I believe Spotify is opening up people’s minds that you do not need to own music. This all-you-can-eat flat rate is awesome, and I’m glad they’re successful,” he said. “We are going even further, because we help you archive all freely available content.”